Low-Wage Work in Denmark

Low-Wage Work in Denmark

Niels Westergaard-Nielsen Editor
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    Low-Wage Work in Denmark
    Book Description:

    The Danish economy offers a dose of American labor market flexibility inside a European welfare state. The Danish government allows employers a relatively high level of freedom to dismiss workers, but also provides generous unemployment insurance. Widespread union coverage and an active system of collective bargaining help regulate working conditions in the absence of strong government regulation. Denmark’s rate of low-wage work—8.5 percent—is the lowest of the five countries under analysis. In Low-Wage Work in Denmark, a team of Danish researchers combines comprehensive national registry data with detailed case studies of five industries to explore why low-end jobs are so different in Denmark. Some jobs that are low-paying in the United States, including hotel maids and meat processors, though still demanding, are much more highly compensated in Denmark. And Danes, unlike American workers, do not stay in low-wage jobs for long. Many go on to higher paying jobs, while a significant minority ends up relying temporarily on income support and benefits sustained by one of the highest tax rates in the world. Low-Wage Work in Denmark provides an insightful look at the particularities of the Danish labor market and the lessons it holds for both the United States and the rest of Europe.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-554-2
    Subjects: Business, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. About the Authors
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. INTRODUCTION The Danish Story
    (pp. 1-15)
    Robert Solow

    By any reasonable standard definition of “low-wage work,” about a quarter of American wage earners are low-wage workers. The corresponding figure is smaller, sometimes much smaller, in other comparable advanced capitalist countries. This fact is not very good for the self-image of Americans. It does not seem to be what is meant by “crown(ing) thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea.” The paradox, if that is the right word, is the starting point for the extensive study of which this book is an important part. What are the comparative facts, what do they mean, and why do they...

  5. CHAPTER 1 Low-Wage Work in Denmark
    (pp. 16-31)
    Niels Westergaard-Nielsen

    This book attempts to describe the functioning of the Danish labor market mainly from the perspective of a low-wage earner. In describing conditions for low-wage workers in Denmark, the contributors to this volume focus especially on labor market institutions.

    There are many differences between being a low-wage worker in Denmark and a low-wage worker in the United States. The low-wage level in Denmark is measured in this book at and below two-thirds of the median earnings, which by coincidence is just at the level of the median hourly earnings in the United States. If we adjust for lower purchasing power...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Statistical Analysis and History of Low-Wage Work in Denmark
    (pp. 32-103)
    Niels Westergaard-Nielsen

    At first sight, an outside observer might find that the Danish labor market looks like other labor markets in Europe and North America, but closer inspection would reveal a number of features that differentiate Denmark from other countries and sometimes even make it look more like one of the states of the United States—and sometimes the very opposite.

    Perhaps the most prominent of those features is the central idea of the “Danish model”: compared with many other countries, agreements between employers and trade unions in Denmark are more important as regulatory mechanisms than legislation and government interventions. These institutions...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Feeling the Gale or Enjoying a Breeze in the Eye of the Storm? The Consequences of Globalization for Work and Workers in the Danish Food-Processing Industry
    (pp. 104-139)
    Lars Esbjerg and Klaus G. Grunert

    Work in the Danish food industry is not low-wage work. Even though the globalization of the food industry has given food-processing companies strong reasons to focus on reducing costs (especially companies facing international competition), so far this has not led to strong downward pressure on wages. The production of some products for which price is the main competitive parameter has been offshored, but food companies have mainly responded to globalization by increasing capital intensity (through production automation and rationalization of production processes) and by focusing on quality and innovation.

    Four major developments are currently influencing the Danish food industry—and...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Working in Danish Retailing: Transitional Workers Going Elsewhere, Core Employees Going Nowhere, and Career-Seekers Striving to Go Somewhere
    (pp. 140-185)
    Lars Esbjerg, Klaus G. Grunert, Nuka Buck and Anne-Mette Sonne Andersen

    Working in retailing is a low-status occupation in Denmark. Politicians and various members of the media routinely use supermarket checkout operators when illustrating how economic policies will affect “common people.” Irregular working hours and mediocre pay are among the retail-related issues that crop up in the media regularly.

    Danish retailers are acutely aware that retail establishments have a negative image as places to work and that this image has an impact on their ability to recruit and retain the workers they need now and will need in the future.

    But what is it actually like to work in Danish retailing?...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Restructuring Meets Flexicurity: Housekeeping Work in Danish Hotels
    (pp. 186-217)
    Tor Eriksson and Jingkun Li

    Danish hotels do not differ much from hotels in other parts of the world. Big hotels and hotels in the major cities are typically operated by international chains, whereas other Danish hotels are considerably smaller and scattered around the country. Customers include business travelers and tourists. Approximately half of overnight stays in Danish hotels are by foreigners. The tendency toward larger units and chains in particular is a fairly recent phenomenon in Denmark as well as in the rest of Scandinavia. There are two main reasons for this late entry into the market: the international chains have predominantly been interested...

  10. CHAPTER 6 The Upgrading of the Skills of Nursing Assistants and Cleaning Staff in the Danish Public-Sector Hospitals
    (pp. 218-257)
    Jacob K. Eskildsen and Ann-Kristina Løkke Nielsen

    In this chapter, we present the results from the study of low-wage workers in Danish health care. The target occupations are the nursing assistants, cleaners, and hospital service assistants who perform basic nursing tasks, clean wards, and serve meals in hospital departments.

    Danish hospital services are concentrated in public establishments, which, until January 1, 2007, were administered by fourteen different county administrations. The sector employed close to 100,000 people in 2004 (approximately 87,000 of them full-time), the equivalent of 3.5 percent of the Danish labor force. Out of these 100,000 employees, approximately 10,000 are nursing assistants and 5,000 are cleaners...

  11. CHAPTER 7 Pay and Job Quality in Danish Call Centers
    (pp. 258-300)
    Ole Henning Sørensen

    The “call center” as an organizational principle is becoming the primary vehicle for customer interaction. As in the United States and several other countries, including the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Germany, call center work has been among the fastest-growing types of employment in the Danish economy since the late 1990s. In 2004 there were an estimated 300 and 400 call centers in Denmark. Approximately 25 percent of these were subcontractors concentrating on selling call center services. Between 20,000 and 25,000 people are employed in Danish call centers, or around 1 percent of the total Danish workforce (Sørensen and El-Salanti...

  12. Index
    (pp. 301-312)